About 90% of private school staff vaccinated as unions urge teachers to be ‘vaccine ambassadors’

According to independent school associations, around 90% of teachers and staff in private schools have been vaccinated.

  • According to independent school associations, around 90% of teachers and staff in private schools have been vaccinated.
  • The associations say they are satisfied with the way in which the Ministry of Basic Education received their teachers during the vaccination campaign.
  • The education sector will complete its vaccination campaign at the end of the week.

While independent school associations say they are satisfied with the Covid-19 vaccination campaign for their members, the five teachers’ unions of the Labor Relations Council in Education have urged their members to be ambassadors for the vaccine.

The Democratic Union of South African Teachers, the National Organization of Professional Teachers of South Africa, the Union of South African Teachers (SAOU), the Union of Professional Educators and the National Union of Teachers urged teachers and the sector support staff to use the remaining days of the immunization campaign to get the jab.

“As educators and education support staff, we need to come together to help older people enroll, and we all need to be vaccine ambassadors so that our country can fight this epidemic through mass vaccination and ensuring that in schools and communities we wear masks, physical distancing, maximum ventilation, hand sanitization and care of each other.

“Let us be constantly vigilant in our personal and community safety practices,” the unions said.

The sector launched its vaccination program two weeks ago.

Although thousands of public and private school workers answered the call and accepted the Johnson & Johnson jab, some were still hesitant. More than 300,000 teachers have been vaccinated since the start of the program, the Ministry of Basic Education announced on Monday.

READ | Covid-19: The department of basic education faced with teachers’ vaccine hesitation

The sector has set a goal of vaccinating 582,564 teachers and support staff from public and private schools across the country. The department said support staff from independent schools, food handlers, screening officers, cleaners and early childhood development practitioners were also included in the deployment.

The executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of Southern Africa, Lebogang Montjane, and the president of the National Alliance of Independent School Associations, Mandla Mthembu, said they were satisfied with the program.

Although figures regarding vaccinations in private schools are not readily available, they added that there was a high participation of teachers from private schools.

Montjane said:

By our estimate, that’s almost about … 90% of our population has been vaccinated so far.

He added that there were minimal challenges, one being that of poor communication.

Montjane and Mthembu said the department, from the start, made it clear that the first week would be used for public school staff. Among the challenges encountered was the fact that the EVDS system could not pick up teachers because they were not under the government’s Persal system.

But that was sorted out after all independent schools were asked to submit their data.

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“Otherwise, I have to congratulate the Ministry of Basic Education – they did everything to make sure all teachers were vaccinated,” Mthembu said.

The Gauteng provincial education department last week expressed concern that nearly 10,000 workers refused to receive the jab.

Although taking the vaccine is voluntary, the department said the World Health Organization has encouraged people at increased risk of contracting the virus to receive the vaccine to reduce their risk.

PEU President Johannes Motona said the department has made great strides in ensuring that teachers and support staff are given preference and that they are promptly immunized.

Motona said taking the vaccine was voluntary and those who refused should not be forced or tried.

“We are really delighted that the percentage of teachers who have vaccinated is positive,” he said.

Basil Manuel de Naptosa said the union was also concerned about workers refusing to be vaccinated, but noted that it could be for a variety of reasons, including culture and religion.

“Gauteng’s nearly 10,000 number is high, but compared to the whole system, we’re talking about 600,000 people, 10,000 is [an insignificant number].

“However, there are realities we need to be concerned about; that our parents shouldn’t start reacting to this. You may have parents who can tell that teachers who are not vaccinated could possibly carry the virus. D other teachers may feel uncomfortable [around unvaccinated] those, ”Manuel said.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was due to provide an update on the vaccination program on Wednesday.

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